Friday, October 30, 2009

Frostbite Season: Gloves

As we hip up on November, you may have noticed that the temperatures outside are naturally starting to nose dive. Unfortunately, this means that those of you still planning on taking to the water are going to be making the painful transition from shorts, tech shirts and SPF 50 sunblock to warm base layers, hats, gloves and socks. And if you believe Accuweather.com or NOAA, we're in for a colder than normal winter this year on most of the eastern seaboard. Thank you El Nino (which, of course, is Spanish for "The Nino")!

When that transition starts happening, one of the items that we struggle to keep on the shelves during the late fall/winter/early spring are cold weather gloves. Cold weather sailing gloves have a rather unique mission -- keep your hands warm while protecting them and gripping line like a regular sailing glove. And while each glove has strengths, none is perfect -- the odds that someone will create a glove that is waterproof, warm, durable AND thin enough to retain dexterity are in the same stratosphere as world peace breaking out and James actually combing his hair before coming to work.

So if none of the gloves out there are perfect, which one should you choose? Well, APS currently carries eight different glove options/styles for true cold weather sailing. We decided to review those options in-depth, getting a sample of our employees (with a full array of hand sizes) to try on each pair of gloves and rate how well they fit, the amount of dexterity that they had left and how warm the gloves were on a scale of 1 (Bad) to 5 (Super-Duper). Some of you science-y people out there are probably blowing a collective brain stem/graphing calculator right now because this method is a wee bit subjective, but everyone's independent evaluations ended up being relatively similar, so we feel pretty good about the results.

Now, before we jump into the results of the testing, we wanted to touch on sizing real quick, since it's one of the biggest issues with cold weather gloves. Because of the extra material needed for insulation and the myriad of different materials and styles, sizing is kind of all over the place for each glove. When it comes to sizing a normal sailing glove, there's a general rule of thumb that is used. Measure all the way around your palm (not including the thumb) at its widest part with a tape measure/ruler and use the chart below to figure out what size glove you should wear. Now, this rule of thumb sort of works on winter gloves, but it's not great. We'll do our best to represent the sizing differences that we found, but if you have any questions before ordering a winter glove, be sure to give us a call at 800/729.9767 or e-mail us at sail@apsltd.com.

Glove SizeInchesCentimeters
XX-Small5"12.7cm
X-Small6"15.3cm
Small7"17.8cm
Medium8"20.3cm
Large9"22.9cm
X-Large10"25.4cm
XX-Large11"28.0cm

Okay, away we go...

Chillblocker Glove by SealSkinz
ChillBlocker Glove by SealSkinz
Cost: $55.95
Waterproof: Yes

7.5"8"8.5"9"9.5"10"Average
Warmness:2333343.00
Dexterity:3234243.00
Sizing:1124222.00

Overview:
The concept behind SealSkinz ChillBlocker Waterproof Gloves is pretty smart. They're have a stretchy Nylon/Lycra outer layer with a waterproof membrane and Polartec fleece on the inside. Unfortunately, it's not pulled off particularly well.

First off, these gloves are HUGE -- at least one size bigger than you'd expect. In one instance, Steve (the 10" hand guy -- he's single too ladies... you know what they say about big hands!) actually found that the medium was his best fit and commented that someone would have to have bear claws to use the extra large. Also, there's a good bit of extra material in the palm when you go to grip something. It seems that the design is too 2D and not enough 3D; there were two testers that thought the glove was more comfortable when you put it on backwards (palm on the back of your hand).

When you take an average of averages, these gloves graded out 2nd to last. We'd recommend using them as a helmsman in other applications where handling line won't be the main concern of the wearer. I think with some more refinement and constructional work, these gloves are on the right track towards being pretty stellar. We're just not sure that they're there yet...

Waterproof Glove by SealSkinz
Waterproof Glove by SealSkinz
Cost: $34.95
Waterproof: Yes

7.5"8"8.5"9"9.5"10"Average
Warmness:2224332.67
Dexterity:3441343.17
Sizing:2331342.67

Overview:
The Waterproof Glove is another glove from SealSkinz that is conceptually strong. This one backs up the concept better though...

This glove actually graded out in a tie for third amongst our testers. These gloves came in a bit more true to size, although three of the testers went down a size -- it's a bit of a personal preference. If you like the gloves to be tight/form fitting for zero movement, then step down a size. If you want them to have a little room in them for comfort and circulation, stay true to the sizing chart.

One of the only consistent complaints was that the fingers might be a bit long -- if you don't have long fingers, you might find this to be a problem (and it explains why these gloves averaged 2.67 for sizing). The gloves did score well (3.17) in overall dexterity, meaning our testers felt that they could do a decent job of moving about the boat and performing their tasks with these gloves on.

We'd give them a recommendation for positions on the boat where you won't have lines running through them -- like the helmsmen or bowmen. They have gripper dots on the palm that are sticky, but I would think that repeated wear by line would eat through these gloves.

Winter Glove by Gill
Neoprene Winter Glove by Gill
Cost: $32.99
Waterproof: No ("Water Resistant")

7.5"8"8.5"9"9.5"10"Average
Warmness:3344453.83
Dexterity:3233343.00
Sizing:3334433.33

Overview:
This glove graded out in second place by our testers and earned solid marks across the board. The Neoprene Winter Glove from Gill is actually well thought out and built -- it's made with 3mm neoprene that also has an extended double sealable cuff system that integrates into dry/wetsuit tops.

Looking at the comments from our testers, the only downside seems to be that the fingers are just a little short. They weren't short enough for any big knocks on dexterity or sizing, but it's a warning for those of you with longer fingers.

We're also pretty impressed with the construction in relation to durability. The palm is grippy and hard wearing and we'd recommend it for use anywhere on the boat and especially for use in dinghies.

Offshore Glove by Gill
Offshore Glove by Gill
Cost: $59.00
Waterproof: Yes

7.5"8"8.5"9"9.5"10"Average
Warmness:4445444.17
Dexterity:2111121.33
Sizing:2352322.83

Overview:
Skiing anyone???

Gill's Offshore Glove does look/feel a little like something you'd wear on the slopes (as per the comments of almost every tester), but there's a number of sailor-y refinements that help set it apart. They do have a waterproof membrane and are designed with Gill's hard-wearing Proton-Ultra material (the yellow stuff) and reinforcement on the palm.

Our testers gave these gloves the second highest mark for warmth but knocked them pretty hard when it came to dexterity, where it received the worst marks of any glove. As with the other Gill gloves, the one consistent comment was that the fingers might be a little short -- some of this might have to do with the internal liner that you do have to work in a little. Again, these are a solid choice for helmsmen and would probably work for a main or jib trimmer who are dealing with larger lines.

Warm Glove by Atlas
Warm Glove by Atlas
Cost: $28.00
Waterproof: Yes

7.5"8"8.5"9"9.5"10"Average
Warmness:4545554.67
Dexterity:2221332.17
Sizing:3434433.50

Overview:
Coming to the finish line in first place is a glove that is built by a company well outside the sailing industry: the Warm Glove by Atlas.

This glove graded out higher than all others when it came to both warmth and sizing; the only knock was that your dexterity is hindered a bit. These gloves has a super durable PVC shell on the exterior that is completely waterproof and with a rough grip on the palm for handling anything. The interior has a soft lining that is really, really warm -- truly ideal for the coldest day on the race course. There is also a version with removable liner to aid the drying time of the glove if you catch some water down the wrist.

These gloves are popular with helmsmen, trimmers, mast guys and dinghy sailors. We really love them around the shop and it's clear to see why.

Extreme Gloves by Gill
Extreme Glove by Gill
Cost: $39.99
Waterproof: No

7.5"8"8.5"9"9.5"10"Average
Warmness:4443243.50
Dexterity:3233222.50
Sizing:3342122.50

Overview:
Grading out in a tie for third place overall, the Extreme Glove from Gill is a solid option that is more form fitting than the Offshore Glove or the Atlas Warm Glove. This makes it a better option for the trimmers, pit or mast positions.

Once again, the concerns with this glove were centered around the fingers; specifically, their length and some bulk at the end of the fingers. These gloves are also made with Gill's Proton-Ultra material that is incredibly tough and durable, but it comes together with a little bulk at the fingertip. Our testers felt that while this bulk wasn't the pinnacle of comfort, it also wasn't a major hindrance to using the glove. There were also a couple of comments from our testers with wider hands that it was a little tight across the back of their hand and near the wrist. For a glove of lighter weight, it did score well on warmth, thanks in part to its Primaloft hydrophobic insulation -- it's a great insulator.

Because of its more form fitting design, this glove would be good for most positions on the boat. We'd be careful about using them if you're dealing with really small line (3/16" and under) that's lying on the deck though.

Frostbiter Glove by Harken
Frostbiter Glove by Harken
Cost: $45.95
Waterproof: No ("Weather Resistant")

7.5"8"8.5"9"9.5"10"Average
Warmness:2223222.17
Dexterity:2343312.67
Sizing:1212242.00

Overview:
Last and, we're sorry to say, least is the Harken Frostbiter Glove.

This glove pulled up in last place in both sizing and warmth, but did score mid-pack when it came to dexterity. Ultimately, the problem with this glove comes from two places:

First, it's a relatively thin glove - barely thicker than the Reflex Glove, Harken's traditional sailing glove. This really hurt it in the warmth category.

Second, the fingers are long... like, really long. All but one of our testers found the fingers to be too long, which hurt the sizing score AND dexterity score. There were also a couple of comments that indicated that the gloves have a bit of a narrow fit.

While these results hurt the glove's scores with us, if you have longer fingers and struggle to find gloves that have the proper length, consider the Harken Frostbiter your answer.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Annapolis Boat Show Break Down

Having wrapped up the annual US Sailboat show last night we're happy to report sore feet and soaring spirits (as evidenced by the double thumbs up from Mike above) are the order of the day today. Yes, we're glad it's over but we're also pleased to share that by all accounts this year's boat show was a good one. While the days of selling boats and booking delivery dates 8 months out due to factory backlog are probably over for a while the general buzz was that orders were being taken, gear was being sold and manufacturers are working harder than ever to freshen their offerings. Here are a few things we saw...

If there is one company that is always keeping its gears turning it's Harken and their launch of a new winch range is impressive. To redesign, engineer, tool and launch an entire winch range top to bottom is no small feat. In fact, it's the largest product launch in the company's history; surely, a strong indication of their ability to innovate and to do so despite the economic crisis. Thanks to Neil from Harken for taking the time to chat with us we learned that some highlights of this new range include the ability to quickly service them while on deck, something the prior generation were notoriously lacking. But, it doesn't stop there. They're also significantly lighter, which is something we're sure everyone will appreciate. Oh, and if you're looking for a smoking deal on remaining inventory of the old range if you buy one you'll get the matching one for 25% off. We also encourage you to visit Harken's site for more info regarding the winches as well as the formal launch of Harken Hydraulics.

Next up, we have a company probably most known for their work in the world of grand prix offshore sailing, Karver Systems. This being their first year at the Annapolis boat show we finally had a chance to catch up with them and what they had to show us was a certain indicator of the forward thinking they're known for. This little bit is a sample of their new ratchet block. What's particularly innovative about it is that one can engage the ratchet in both directions. Simply slid the pin one way or the other and commence ratcheting. We're not wholly sure what it will prove useful for at this point but we like that we won't have to stock a port and starboard version like we do with most other ratchets. We also think their K Block range is particularly slick but it's not new. However, if you haven't seen them before certainly take a look.

New from the fine blokes at Ronstan is the addition of a shackle post option to the Orbit range of blocks they've been rolling out over the past few years. We've had a fair number of customers telling us they love their Orbit blocks and the fact that their ratchets are the only ones that can be switched from ratchet mode to auto-ratchet mode and off completely. But, one complaint, particularly with Laser sailors using them for mainsheet blocks, is that wear is a concern on the soft terminations they started with. We love that they have the soft loop termination but we also think that the addition of the shackle post option is a smart one. Look for us to recommend these for things like those pesky Laser mainsheet blocks.

Don't be fooled though, the goodness doesn't stop with the hardware companies. Our favorite apparel companies are also rolling out new and innovative products. In fact, at the press conference held this past Friday celebrating their 25th anniversary Nick Gill and company formally announced their new Race Collection. The following is lifted from their press release...

"Two years ago, the Gill R&D team were given a simple brief – to design the best lightweight Race Gear for sailing, with specific emphasis on hot and sunny conditions.

The most detailed research project ever undertaken by the team was put in place, meetings were held with teams at the top of the game, from the TP52 to the Laser SB3, from superstars of the grand prix circuit such as TP 52 World Champion Terry Hutchinson and his Quantum Racing team, to committed weekend warriors. Members of the Gill race team were consulted on their ideal wish list for a collection of specific racing gear.

The result is most innovative, highest performing race gear available today, and even includes the lightest performance sailing jacket ever made."


...and while we know that press release fluff can sometimes not give credence to reality we can tell you that we've had a close look at it, tried the stuff on, spoken to the Quantum boys already using it and think that everyone will be supremely impressed with their new range. Of note here are the weight and fit of the jacket and the padding on the front of their under layer. Believe it or not Gill was at one point in the cycling gear business and we can only assume they've used their prowess in padded shorts for biking here. We're sure these will be very popular with the Farr 40 and Melges crowd who like to spend their free time doubled over 3/16" wire for fun.

Last but not least, Gill has also totally revamped their glove range. With the addition of a glove designer to their design team the improved range of gloves are likely the most comfortable and grippiest available. We're looking forward to making these all available to you. Unfortunately, we'll miss Key West with them but look for all of these to be available early Spring '10.

Finally, a little bit about ourselves! APS had a great show too. We're also happy to report that this was one of our best years yet. Yes, sales were up a bit over last year (which was a tough one) but don't expect us to be showing up on the start line in new boats next year...we do work in an industry that relies heavily on people spending their ever shrinking (if not vaporized) discretionary budgets after all. What made this show better than ever was working with many of our vendors and catching up with customers and vendors alike. Many of these people we talk to on a daily basis but only get to see once a year. Thanks very much to all of you who stopped by to see and support us. It's always nice to put faces with names!

PS. During the show we had 3 Laser Performance Bugs rigged to get the little ones on the water and we're happy to report that we put more than 300 children at the helm during the show. Please come back and see us next year!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

BOAT SHOW!!!


The United States Sailboat Show here in Annapolis is reputed to be the oldest and largest new in-water boat show in the world. I’m guessing that they wouldn’t lie about this, but making wild claims isn’t exactly hard – for instance, James has claimed that girls actually talk to him on more than one occasion.

[crickets]

Moving on…

This is the biggest event of the year for us here at APS. We're talking about an “all hands on deck” kind of thing where every staff member will be working either in the storefront or with one of our vendors. This year APS staffers will be spread over six different sites, so wherever you are at the show, you’ll probably see one of our smiling faces.

Internet
Anywhere You Have the WWW Access

Yes, you won't actually see us on the internet... but we are having a shin-dig of a blowout of a sale. I'd hate to ruin the surprise when you get your invoice, but we're going to be taking 15% off of practically everything in the shop. Read up on all the wonder and amazement that is the APS Boat Show Sale by clicking your mouse here.

If you have any questions, you can give us a call at 800/729.9767, but keep in mind that we're a little short staffed here on the phones because of the show, so the wait times might be a hair longer than usual. Just hit the speakerphone button, sit back with a cup of coffee and put your feet up on your desk and take in our hold music -- the smooth sounds of Peter Montgomorey narrating some Australian skiff racing. It's cool, your boss won't mind at all. Just tell him you're supporting small business in America and wave a flag at him -- he'll back off.

APS' Very Own Booth
On Water, Corner of E2 & F2

You’ll see the most smiling faces at our Boat Sales booth, just south of the Annapolis Marriot and next to the Woodwind. Our Customer Service "Dream Team" of John Maloney, Aaron Freeman and Warren Richter will be showcasing the latest and greatest boats from LaserPerformance with once-a-year special pricing on all of LP's boats (and more special-er (?) pricing for our in-water boats). They're also going to be showing off other APS products, taking rigging orders and basically performing any of their normal APS duties over there. It'll be like APS Northwest.

Also, if you've got an under 14-ish sailor who can fit in LaserPerformance's Bug, we'll have three of them at the APS Booth for your precious angels to buzz around in. And yes, we will have trained sailing instructors (lead by the website's queen of correcting my mistakes, Katie Cross) there to make sure that they don't crash into a $400,000 sport boat, effectively emptying their college savings account and condemning them to a lifetime of hearing "remember when you bankrupted the family by torpedoing a Swan 42?"

Musto
On Land, AB16 - AB18

Jarrett Hering (Rigging), Ian Coleman (Storefront) and I will be holding down the Musto booth this year with 15% off on everything from their rugged Offshore HPX to the lightweight crew-weight Carribean and Windward lines. Their HPX and MPX gear is the bees knees and is the standard for anyone going offshore or racing hard. Their MPX Race line is a favorite of staff here at APS; we're all huge fans of the MPX Race Spray Top and Race Salopettes.

For the less fashion conscious who don't need the most brandy-spankinest new gear, we'll even have some bigger discounts if you don't mind last year's decals or colors.

Don't see the HPX, MPX, gear bag, etc. that you want from Musto, but still want the 15% discount? No worries; if we don't have it at the booth or here at the shop, we'll order it in, UPS it to you and give you the discount. So come early, come often, but most of all, just come so we can justify our boss continuing to pay our salaries.

Gill
On Land, 69 & 70

Our girls of the Purchasing and Receiving Departments, Lynn Bethell and Arianne Dalton, will be working the Gill booth along with some of Gill's finer reps. They'll also have 15% pretty much everything in the booth, but they'll also have their Atlantic Jacket (normally $449.00) at the "they must be out of their minds price" of just $270.00. And while the signs only say "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service", they do imply that you'll need pants, so Gill will also have the Atlantic Trousers (normally $339.00) down to $180.

SLAM
On Land, 24

Just a hop, skip and a mosey from the Musto booth, Joanie Stone (Shipping) and Steve Mazur (Customer Service) will be working with our good friends at SLAM this year. They'll have all sorts of goodies and deals from the company that let Russell Coutts design foul weather gear. I hear he's a decent sailor and the gear gets decent reviews, so stop by and take a look. And if that doesn't get you all excited, you can soak in all of Steve's charm on Saturday and Sunday when we let him out of customer service.

Atlantis
Tent Space, 18

Our favorite almost-Canadian, Mike Lindsley, is going to be wearing the APS colors over at the Atlantis booth this year. Atlantis has really been making a name for themselves over the past year or two and we've started to get on board with some of their gear. If you've heard the name but haven't seen the gear, it'd definitely be worth a trip over to see some of the innovative things that they're doing.

So that's where we'll be for the next few days -- we hope to see everyone there!